ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Village of Attachment

Post submitted by Bev Ogilvie and Steve Cairns

Byrne Creek Community Secondary School is committed to its culture of teacher collaboration. A weekly dedicated time slot is used by staff teams to discuss student achievement and develop support plans. One student support plan was The Village of Attachment. Over six months, a group of staff met to learn the foundations and employ the strategies of this powerful paradigm.

Drawing on neuroscience, social science, and developmental approaches, district counselor Bev Ogilvie and retired principal Steve Cairns, founders of the program, embrace the African proverb that it takes a whole village to raise a child. The village is a web of adults who are committed to the cause of connectedness in our homes, schools, and communities. Their belief is that it is vitally important that adults lead children, that we are a child's beacon, his north star, his lighthouse, his compass. When adults are in the alpha position, children are able to rest in this security, develop deep roots of attachment with us, and reach their full human potential.

Humans are creatures of attachment who are preoccupied with the pursuit and preservation of relationships. According to Ogilvie and Cairns, it is up to adults to take the lead in this dance, to run to children rather than away from them. Especially given our digital age of disconnection, adults must be purposeful and intentional in their endeavors to bring children into right relationships with adult primary caregivers. To Ogilvie and Cairns, it's a matter of mattering, of right relationships and soft hearts!

This has huge implications for our work in schools. Essentially, this is a paradigm shift from a behavioral approach to a relational one. Ogilvie and Cairns's vision for our world is a vision they shared with Byrne Creek staff during collaboration time and one they would like to share with families and adults who want their children to be nurtured and anchored. Their vision sees children who are anchored in school, contribute, and thrive. Children with kindness and compassion. Children who experience joy, hope, direction, and purpose. Children who are seen and heard, who belong, feel significant, loved, and known.

Bev Ogilvie is a district counselor with the Burnaby School District and a senior instructor with the Crisis Prevention Institute. She received her Master of Arts in counseling psychology from the University of British Columbia and has 28 years of professional teaching experience in public schools as well as in colleges and universities. She is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and a member of the British Columbia School Counsellors' Association. Most recently, Ogilvie was awarded the 2009–10 British Columbia Registered Clinical Counsellor Professional Care Award for exhibiting special creativity and effectiveness in providing counseling and professional care. She is an author, researcher, and workshop facilitator who embraces Gordon Neufeld's integrated developmental approach both in her leadership role in the school community and in her personal life.

Steve Cairns is a retired school administrator, following 35 years of service with School District #41 (Burnaby). He is the recipient of the City of Burnaby Local Hero Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community. He is also coauthor of Brain Fit (2002) as well as a published author in several professional publications. Currently, Cairns is administrative designate to the B.C. Fast ForWord Consortium, executive member of the B.C. School-Based Mental Health Coalition, and director of the Nurturing Network, a group that provides a sustainable, systemic model that supports and guides the development of children and youth.

Comments (2)

gayle hernandez

February 17, 2014


Tekla Fulton

January 25, 2015

Hello Mr. Cairns, I was at the District 40 DPAC, the one who asked you about principal participation.  I have another question you might have experience with.  I am from the Qayayt PAC.  We are considered “inner city”, we cannot establish “a true community school because of no buy in from admin.  OUr new school opened in Sept. and we now deeply regret tearing down the old one.  This one is even harder to get “attachment” with an over concern, in my opinion, with “security”.  My question is, we, like sheep do a hot lunch, pizza, sushi etc. that the parents must order.  The cost is around $5 and only about 60 kids out of the 450ish order lunch.  This leaves the other 400 “wishing they got a hot lunch” and not understanding why they don’t.  A kinder hardly understands that his parents have to sign up, pay…...I feel he just thinks that classmates have better luck or worse, are more special.  In the positive side the effort builds community with our parents and the kids whose parents show up feel “attached”?  All we can think to do is have a PAC funded hot dog day but we are not a rich PAC and most of that effort has gone into raising $150,000 for a playground.  I just thought you may have discovered a way around this?  Thanks Tekla

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